Green Dealer Support


Sustainability
August 31, 2014, 11:35 pm
Filed under: Going Green, Green Facts | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

GDS“Sustainability”

In more general terms, sustainability is the endurance of systems and processes.I think I first knew about that word in some form from my track coach when I was running cross country. He tried to impress on all of us that in order to do well we had to be able to “sustain” the pace. We needed to hold back a little as the race went on so that as we reach the point of only having 1,000 yards left to go we could we could really push it and pass all those other guys who had moved out in front of us earlier in the race.

It my business I find another version of this to be true, which is; that even when times are good, I need to resist going out and spending all the money in the bank, just because it is there. I need to be able to “sustain” the operation of the business for the long run. If I don’t have that long range plan I could find myself running out of steam (money) at the wrong time.

There is of course the definition of sustainability that relates to the environment. I know there is a lot of conversation about this. Many people would tell you that they believe that Global Warming and Climate Change are all part of the evolution of time and that we should not get too concerned about these thing. We have been seeing storms and droughts for years and that all seems to be just part of the way things change over time.

For me, I am concerned that people that live in Norfolk VA are seeing high tides cause more issues. I am also concerned that a group of scientist is warning that Climate Change is going to have a big impact on all of us. I guess time will tell how serious all that is. In the mean time, what is a person to do?

I think we can make it a little simpler and manageable by breaking it down into some smaller pieces. I am going to take a stab at that because it seem to me that when most people are looking at the entire issue of environmental sustainability they find it has almost has too many moving parts.

My approach is to look at three components with the idea that I can understand it I can, in my own way, have an impact on all three. The three pieces I personally can work on are:

  1. Energy
  2. Water
  3. Waste

A lot of the use of resources such as Energy and Water is based on population growth as well as how well we live. In 1927 we reached a world population of 2,000,000,000 people. By 1974 we had  doubled that to 4 billion and it is estimated that by 2026 we will double that again to 8 billion. All those people use up a lot of energy and water and create a lot of waste going into landfills. And from 1927 until now most of us are each using a lot more resources.

Energy:

Here is what I see going on with energy. The scientist tell us that for some time we are using energy faster that what we are producing it. The numbers are huge as to how much faster we are using energy that we are making it. The fact is, however, we have a big stockpile to draw from. But, we also have the issue that we are using it faster all the time. The debate seems to be how soon will we run out. If we keep doing this, sooner or later we will run out.

We use energy in many ways, but to keep it simple and look at myself (which may not be the same for everyone), I have a few big uses of energy that I personally could change. One is electricity/natural gas and the other is gasoline. I know I can have some impact on the use of both of them without too much change in my life style.

On the electricity/natural gas one, am already going down the road of replacing in-efficient light bulbs with CFL bulbs or LED. Was it a big deal? At the time it seems like it was. Those incandescent bulbs are really cheap to buy while the CFL’s were a lot more expensive and the LED’s are terrible. However, when you put a pencil to it the LED’s really make a lot of sense. I just had to change my outlook to longer term. My home is heated with Geothermal. It certainly cost more at the outset but again when I look at the long term it was easy to see the cost was much lower.

And then there is the gasoline issue. The car I use for business get almost 30 mile to the gallon, so I feel I am pretty good about that. Last week when I was in California and was going to be spending a week in the car with about 1,500 mile to drive so I had some decisions to make. As I was walking down the National Car Rental row of cars I had some basic considerations in mind. I needed a car that would be comfortable for all those miles and I needed a car with XM Radio and on by the way, it needed to have decent fuel economy. I got all three things I wanted and to my surprise got about 40 miles to the gallon overall.  When my gasoline cost was about 40% less than I normally experienced it was a good reminder to be sure next time to have fuel economy a little higher on the list of requirements. We will all all eventually be driving cars with better fuel economy, like it or not, as we move toward an average fleet of over 50 miles to the gallon.

Water:

water

Being from the Midwest where we have enough water (at least this year) it is sometimes hard to worry too much about any shortage of water. That is until you get to California. Here I saw lot of evidence of how much trouble we are already in for water. I saw lake Shasta where the water level is down about 75 feet. It is that water that irrigates those fruits and vegetables we all love so much. The dryness also had thousand of acres burning out of control in Northern California.

I am not sure how much of this we control but when on the same trip I saw lawns being over watered with runoff going down the gutter, it makes you wonder what it will take to get serious about how we protect our water supply whether it is in California or in Michigan. The fact is we all could be doing things to reduce water usage where ever we are.

It still all can get down to money. Even in the Midwest, water is about a penny per gallon. That does not sound like much until you see the number of gallons that are used by all the people every day with little regard as to how we can reduce usage. Often if is more a matter of how we use it and does not even require measures such as low flow faucets.

Waste:

Landfill

This is a big issue for a lot of reasons.

First every time we throw something in the trash and it goes to the landfill there is some chance that we made a bad decision when we acquired it and thus too quickly it became trash. If you want to look at it strictly on dollars out of you pocket, think about what never should have been acquired in the first place. Also think about it along the lines of, could someone else use this or could it be recycled.

Here a a couple of examples:

  1. Plastic bags
  2. Plastic water bottles

It seems that every store is happy to package your purchase in plastic bags. Whether it is the grocery store or the home supplies store, we always seem to have a lot of those plastic bags coming home with us. They do not cost a lot but they sure are a mess to deal with. Most of them end up in the landfill and they stay there forever and ever. At the landfill they add up to a huge amount of space. The alternative is to use those reusable bags we all have accumulated and probably already have in the trunks of our cars.

Those water bottles are a similar problem but here there is a cost you bear that doesn’t have to happen. With drinking water costing about a penny per gallon out of the faucet and bottled water cost a buck the decision is easy.

While I do not have all the answers for being a totally environmentally sustainable world, I have just shown that from my person experience we could all be doing a little bit every day to help. Multiply that times 8,000,000,000 and it starts to get to be a big number.

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Plastic Waste
February 28, 2013, 7:21 pm
Filed under: Going Green, Green Facts | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

header-logo2

As a country we are generating a lot of plastic that is either disposed of in landfills or recycled. Some recent statistics (2010) indicate that about 12 percent  of landfill space is used by some form of plastic. That number is growing very fast. Fifty years ago it was only 1 percent.

plastic Waste

Here how plastics are made:

Plastics fall into two basic categories; thermosets and thermoplastic.

Thermosets sets when heated and is used for durable items such as construction and automobile parts.

Thermoplastic softens when exposed to heat. It is used for products such as milk jugs, floor covering and carpet fibers.

Here are some interesting plastic waste statistics (2010):

  • Over 30 million tons of plastic were generated representing over 12 percent of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW)
  • Only 8 percent of the total plastic generated was recovered for recycling
  • About 7 million tons of plastic are non durable goods which includes plates and cups
  • About  11 million tons of plastic was durable which includes plastic in appliances, etc.

Plastic pollution is a problem because plastic takes so long to decompose. A website maintained by the Mid Michigan Waste Authority provides numerous links that explore all aspects of plastic pollution. Here is an excerpt from their website:

Quick Facts about Plastic Pollution

  • A plastic milk jug takes 1 million years to decompose.
  • A plastic cup can take 50 – 80 years to decompose.
  • Recycled plastic can be used to make things like trash cans, park benches, playground equipment, decks, and kayaks.
  • Special fleece-like fabrics used in clothes and blankets can be made out of recycled plastic bottles.
  • Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every HOUR.
  • Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1 million sea creatures every year.
  • Recycling plastic saves twice as much energy as burning it in an incinerator.
  • A United States law, implementing an international agreement called MARPOL Annex V, became effective on December 31, 1988. It prohibits the disposal of plastics into the marine environment and requires ports to provide reception facilities for ship-generated plastic waste.
  • Today, Americans generate 10.5 million tons of plastic waste a year but recycle only 1 or 2 % of it.
  • An estimated 14 billion pounds of trash, much of it plastic is dumped in the world’s oceans every year.
  • The worldwide fishing industry dumps an estimated 150,000 tons of plastic into the ocean each year, including packaging, plastic nets, lines, and buoys.
  • About 1,200 plastic soft drink and salad dressing containers could carpet the average living room.
  • It takes 1,050 HDPE (#2) milk jugs to make a six-foot plastic lumber park bench.
  • Every year we make enough plastic film to shrink-wrap the state of Texas.
  • Nearly every piece of plastic EVER made still exists today.

You can go to their website for further plastic pollution information and action that you can take. Click here to go to their website:

Most plastics have a resin identification code as you would typically see on the bottom of plastic container. The resin number is usually inside a triangle which is frequently confused for the recycling symbol. It does not mean that the item can be collected for recycling. Here is a chart of the codes and what they mean:

Resin Identification Code

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

Type of Resin Content

PET

HDPE

Vinyl

LDPE

PP

PS

OTHER

  • PET – Polyethylene Terephthalate
  • HDPE – High-density Polyethylene
  • LDPE – Low-density Polyethylene
  • PP – Polypropylene
  • PS – Polystyrene
  • Other – Mixed Plastics

resin-identification-symbols2120px-Recycling_symbol_svgNote the difference in these two recycle related logos. It is often confused that the resin identification guarantees that a plastic item is recycable but that is the farthest thing from the truth. The number is for sorting purposes.

There are about 2,000 companies in the US that handle or process post-consumer plastic. Recycling occurs either curbside or at drop-off points. Often this is included in full stream recycling and is mixed with other recyclable material such as paper. The recyclable material goes through a number of sorting and cleaning processes until it is finally ready for processing which includes grinding it into small flakes. After further processing it is formed into pellets and shipped to product manufacturing plants where they begin the cycle again as new plastic products.

Source reduction is about reducing the amount of waste that is generated. Here plastic plays an important role as plastic is generally more lightweight than its alternatives such as glass, paper, or metal. These lighter weight materials require less fuel to transport and result in less material in the waste stream.

Green Dealer Support works with dealers to identify items that are being added to the waste stream and may eventually end up in landfills.




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